The Canmaker Summit 2017 – Scotland
Metal packaging creates brand value and supports the circular economy, delegates at The Canmaker Summit were told. Mónica Higuera reports
Ewoud Nieuwenhuis, Global Category Lead Metal at Heineken, the largest brewer in Europe, and the world’s second, shared with delegates at The Canmaker Summit held in Scotland in October, how Heineken approaches the topic of sustainability.
“At Heineken we are taking the issue of climate change extremely seriously,” he said, explaining that the brewer is coordinating a number of key focus areas, such as protecting water resources, sourcing locally and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“Reducing carbon dioxide emissions, that’s all about our footprint development where we place our breweries, and developments we do with our suppliers to place the next can plant for example, with recent examples being built in Mexico and the Netherlands.”
A further example of the company’s approach to sustainability is its Tiger Beer in Singapore which is produced at a brewery whose roof is covered with solar panels, he explained, reducing the plant’s carbon footprint by more than 20 percent and giving Heineken the chance to say that Tiger Beer is brewed by the sun.
Nieuwenhuis also mentioned Heineken’s Goss Brewery in Austria which since 2015 is the world’s first large-scale green brewery, completely carbon neutral with 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources and locally-sourced raw materials.
But production of beer is only about 11 percent of the brewer’s carbon footprint, he noted, while packaging represents half of it. Nieuwenhuis said Heineken is looking for game-changing innovations, “from barley-to-bar”, that would enable it to be carbon neutral, and has launched a programme called Drop de C (in CO2).
“Do we as Heineken still need cans in the future?” he asked the audience. “We absolutely need cans,” he said. “Because if you look at all the countries where we are growing significantly, like Vietnam, like Cambodia, like Mexico… cans is the fastest growing packaging material. A lot of young people are attracted to the packaging, so we still need it.”
Amongst the brewer’s strategy to lowering the carbon footprint of packaging are the lightweighting of can bodies and ends, recycling, and promoting and supporting the use of renewable energy for can production, he added.
How lightweight aluminium bottles support the circular economy was discussed by Jan Driessens who also explained how metal packaging creates value while enhancing margins.
Driessens, former president of Ball Packaging Europe, has led the Prime Metal Bottle project for the last five years and has been working with equipment manufacturer Schuler on the specification of the D&I manufacturing lines, and with the Japanese-developed TMC neckers necessary to produce aluminium bottles with taller necks than are currently available.
One of these 41cl Prime Metal Bottles with ROPP closure won in the Prototype category of the Cans of the Year Awards, which were announced at The Canmaker Summit.
Driessens told summit delegates that today’s prices of beverage cans are lower than 20 years ago. “It is an achievement of the industry,” he said. “We downgauged tremendously,” adding that today cans are about one third of the weight they were when he joined the canmaking sector in the mid-1990s.
“I think it’s time to put back some margin into business,” said Driessens. “I think, change of paradigm is maybe the words that I would like to use here, because the industry needs margin.”
He then shared with delegates data from a study on how margins in the European beer industry differ between geographies, how they are affected by local alcohol tax, and by packaging size and type.
In the supply chain, margins for brand owners are significantly higher at around 20 percent, compared to packaging suppliers at about 10 percent, and commodity suppliers between 5 and 10 percent, he said.
“Throughout the value chain there are opportunities for margin enhancement through innovation,” adding that “the differentiation in packaging drives market share and drives margin at the same time.”
Driessens quoted Stefan Orlowski, president of Europe Region at Heineken, who at a presentation in 2016 said: “Europe is an attractive beer and cider market showing growth, especially the premium category.”
Premium and craft beers are amongst the target markets for the Prime Metal Bottle, and consumers are willing to pay extra for an aluminium bottle and be seen with the package, said Driessens.
He added that beer cools twice as fast in metal as in glass. “The cooling of a beer is an absolute important thing on your carbon footprint.”
Additionally, the lightweight aluminium bottle packaging creates export opportunities and provides cost savings in transportation and logistics. The three fundamental questions to ask are, said Driessens, the packaging weight per hectolitre, how much energy is used in material creation per hectolitre, and how much material can be re-used.
He explained that the carbon footprint of a material and packaging is influenced by three factors – material weight, energy use, and material re-use – and that aluminium, a permanent and infinitely recyclable material, responds to all these challenges.
Driessens summed up the circular economy approach to packaging: “In the circular economy we need to save energy, we need to save natural resources, and we need to save money. We must recycle, we must save energy, and we must bring it back.”
An additional reason why a product like the Prime Metal Bottle enhances margins is because of the sizes it offers. The name of the bottles refer to their prime number content.
“The content that we like to produce is a content that is either divided by one or by itself. That gives you all kind of opportunities on the shelf to go into different pricing strategies. If you can work on your sizes you have potential to increase margins.”
Bottles were also featured in the presentation by chief executive officer of Exal Corporation, Michael Mapes, Accelerating growth through consumer value creation.
“Doesn’t matter what type of industry you are in,” said Mapes, “if you are focused on the consumer, and focused on value creation, you are going to grow your business.”
Mapes reviewed consumer trends that are facing the packaging industry, such as premiumisation, convenience, sustainability and protection. “Consumers are trading up for premium, differentiated products that provide the experiences they covet.
“Ultimately what matters the most is being able to drive consumer value, being able to come up with a value proposition that is really unique and compelling but ultimately helps grow the market.”
He then provided two examples of how metal packaging has grown and expanded the category for Exal but also for consumers: aerosol cans for suncare brands, and aluminium bottles for beer.
In the North American market, aluminium now represents around 40 percent of sunscreen packages after a rapid conversion from plastics, he said. The conversion was driven by the convenience and ease of application of the aerosol can format, and by solving a customer need.
Between 2005 and 2015, the North American sunscreen market is estimated to have grown by 62 percent, and sunscreen brands are able to charge more per package because consumers are willing to pay for it since they are provided with a better user experience.
“It costs a lot more per ounce but guess what, consumers are paying for it. They want to pay for it. They want to pay for the convenience. Big opportunity there, because they are actually seeing the benefits of that experience.”
Anheuser-Busch InBev is also able to charge a premium price per ounce by selling Bud Light in aluminium bottles. The bottles provide a unique compelling experience for consumers, said Mapes, and aluminium bottles tick all the boxes in terms of premiumisation, resealability, portability, sustainability, drinkability, and protection.
He added the industry should aggressively pursue segments or product categories that provide a win for multiple parties (brands, consumers and environment); seek out opportunities to create a pull in the market by solving a consumer need instead of pushing innovation in a vacuum; and sell an enhanced experience to the consumer instead of a simple container.
“If we focus on those three things as an industry, then ultimately we can outgrow the pie. And this is what is all about. If we can grow the pie, then we all win,” said Mapes.
The presentation by president and chairman of the board at Giorgi Global Holdings and Can-Pack, Peter Giorgi, focused on sustainability. Giorgi said that global politics on climate change is putting added pressure on business and that the push on sustainability has accelerated.
“Sustainability and sustainable development generally is becoming more than just an exercise of social responsibility designed to protect, to build, to enhance, to boost companies’ reputation and to reduce waste. It’s becoming seen more and more as a way of an opportunity to develop compelling growth strategies and to open up new market opportunities for businesses.”
Giorgi called for more proactive action on lobbying and educating legislators, cooperating with NGOs and local governments. “In order to turn the changing environment into our advantage we need to focus on recycling.
“We have to lead. We have to get out in front of it. We have to help our legislators to understand it. Educating our elective representatives is as much a part of it as educating our customers.
“I think private industry will ultimately see sustainability as a way of opening new business opportunities,” he said. “This is sort of the trend: new business opportunities, new jobs, new growth strategies, and actually benefits that go beyond marketing or sort of reputational value.
“We can develop from this sustainable resources in the form of businesses, businesses to collect and to recover and to reuse and recycle this material rather than process it from primary production smelting and refining.”
The best of the best
“We can make a quality product because we have top quality equipment, and flexibility of quick size changes,” Albert Kurzêcki, vice president of independent beverage canmaker Bagpak Polska, told delegates.
Set up in 2008 by Polish brewer Van Pur to make two-piece steel cans for its beers at Stawola Wola, Bagpak has now expanded with an aluminium can line capable of producing eight can sizes.
Kurzêcki explained how The Canmaker Summit 2016 in Lisbon inspired the project.
“In the beginning nobody was willing to talk to us, really. We were the small guys. Nobody really knew who we were. People weren’t really interested in conversing,” he said.
“It was actually about a year ago when we were sitting in Lisbon at The Canmaker conference and I remember Gus [Reall] from Stolle showing a slide where they said 140 new lines will come up in the next ten years. So we thought, why not us? We have the know-how. We can do it. So we decided to go on with this project.
“We realised also at the Lisbon conference that somebody else was talking about different can sizes, and we realised maybe we should design the line in such a way that it’s one of the biggest swing lines that we can design. The line is actually designed for eight can sizes.
“The key to the success of this project, from the beginning, we knew, was working with the best of the best, the best suppliers of material and equipment suppliers.
“And we realised that the best customer for this new line is us. So we also built a filling line, right on site, only 20 meters away.” Completed in August 2017, the new KHS filling line started up in September.
“We are trying to build a system called vertical control: from a can design to a filled can out in the store in less than 24 hours. That’s possible because we can do our own graphic design, canmaking, can filling, all in one site, and have a distribution chain that we’ve worked on for over ten years.”
Kurzêcki explained that David Lieb of Sandvik Hyperion helped Bagpak with the design process of the eight can sizes.
Sandvik Hyperion manufactures bodymaker, necker and cupper tools, as well as providing engineering support and service, the company’s director of Process Lines, Patrick André told delegates.
“We changed our competence,” explained André, “which means that we recruited people, for example we have David Lieb together with us, and really to try to better understand the application. How can we help customers to better use our tools, and get the maximised output out from our tools, and also minimise their cost.”
He explained that Sandvik Hyperion has developed an optimised design of bodymaker punch with a lighter weight material which enables to get the same punch weight for a 204 than for a 211 diameter can, facilitating quick changeovers since only the punch needs replacing instead of changing the whole system.
The DZ18 grade not only enhances a swing line efficiency and flexibility, it increases tool life compared to standard carbide, he added. Tools have a longer production life between regrinds and crosshatch, and total punch life may increase three times as compared to standard grades.
André said that the benefit due to the extra cans sold by a customer as a result of fast changeovers was more than €224,000 (US$262,000) per year, while the estimated benefit on their wear rate was close to €40,000 ($47,000). “So a total of more than €263,000 ($308,000) annual savings on this specific plant. We found also that we saved more than 1,100 hours of operators changing tools or maintaining the tools.”
Production solutions for lightweight aluminium bottles were discussed by Markus Röver, head of packaging at Schuler Pressen, who said that the best solution depends on the geometry, volume, shape and closure of the particular bottle.
Röver reviewed the different line configurations available, including small not expandable manufacturing lines with pin chin transport operating at between 150 and 200 bottles a minute; small but expandable lines with pin chain transport running at between 200 and 400 bottles a minute or with mass transport at 500, 750 and 1,500 bottles a minute; and large, dedicated lines with mass transport running at 1,500 a minute.
Swing lines between cans and bottles are also possible, “applicable only when you have a really well thought combination between the can and bottle sizes,” he said.
The latest metal decorating solutions for two- and three-piece cans was the subject of the presentation by Ralf Gumbel, chief executive offer of KBA-MetalPrint.
For two-piece beverage cans, the company’s CS MetalCan decorator features ten keyless inking units and offers automated plate and web blanket changes, designed to speed up label changes and make shorter production runs more economically feasible.
Gumbel introduced the MetalDecojet digital printing system as the first industrial inkjet system developed specifically for use in the metal packaging industry, and which uses water-based ink systems; and the MetalCanjet system for direct digital decoration of two- and three-piece cans and kegs.
Another equipment supplier which has expanded is portfolio of machinery is SLAC from China whose director Richard Moore, also managing director of RMRM Consultancy, began by paying tribute to “the unsung heroes of the canmaking world, the engineers who made the machines which made this industry possible”, such as Edwin Norton, who invented the first semi-automatic can assembly line using soldering, and Max Amms, who invented the double seam.
Moore said that in China, there are 4.7 million recent graduates in science and technology. This flow of engineering graduates and the fast growth of the market for metal packaging equipment will inevitably gradually shift the centre of gravity, at least in the equipment sector, towards the East in coming years, he said.
Suzhou-based SLAC was established in 2004 by three friends from the engineering faculty of Xinhua University in Beijing. They first concentrated on one of the more technically difficult areas of the canmaking business, easy-open end conversion, and in 2012 delivered the first D&I bodymaker.
Since then, the company has expanded its product portfolio for the production of beverage cans and its footprint with the acquisition of Corima in Italy, the set up of SLAC Precision Americas in the US, and the purchase of Intercan Group in the UK.
Listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange since 2014, SLAC is now responding to the customisation trend with a digital decorator that makes short runs possible and economical, and customisation down to one can.
The company is also working on the factory of the future and ways of continuously monitoring and analysing the status of machine performance, self-adjustment of the equipment, and predictive maintenance, for example.
“No operators, no variable time, no variable labour, more uptime, no or less downtime, short changeover times, consistent product quality, lower use of energy and water, and overall much higher productivity even than the best practice factories that are in the market today.
“If we can achieve it, we will be worthy successors to all those industrious engineers who’ve gone before us.”
Joint industry position ahead of legislation
Dr Ulrich Nehring (pictured right) of Nehring Consultants reminded delegates of the opportunity presented by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) of the European Commission requesting input from the industry sector.
“DG SANTE has contacted industry, first of all the plastics industry but later on also other sectors of the food contact materials industry, to share their views on a future legislation,” said Nehring.
“And this is where the chance comes up. Industry has the chance to do something and to enter its views and visions into a new legislation. Which is really a good chance. It’s not a normal situation.
“It is extremely important that industry carries on with these joint activities like you find it in the Cross Sector Group or in the Printing Inks Joint Industry Task Force where strong communications through the whole supply chain is guaranteed and you really can find a joint position.
“You have to do something and this needs manpower, people need to be sent to these working groups and find a joint position together. That is very important. And it needs a certain speed.”
Also speaking at The Canmaker Summit was Dave Wall, global growth manager at Dupont Teijin Films, who discussed polyester film technologies as an alternative to can coatings.
“Many of these technologies are not entirely new but until recently the film products incorporating them had not been available except in Japan. Dupont Teijin Films is now launching a new range of films optimised for this market. These will be manufactured in Europe and the US.”
Wall said that in recent years there has been an extensive renewed interest in the technology outside of Japan. “The most significant public demonstration of this has been the investment by TATA, which was announced at this meeting two years ago. And TATA are currently installing a film line and a lamination line.”
Stéphane Tondo, president of the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (Apeal) talked about a chrome-free passivation alternative (CFPA) for tinplate, its product properties and current status of performance tests.
Tondo said that high quality surface properties have been achieved, as well as good optical properties (no yellowing), good lacquer adhesion, and better wettability than chrome passivation.
CFPA meets current EU food contact legislation and has been tested by TNO and Institute Nehring. It is also food contact approved by the FDA in the US, while approval for food contact in China and Brazil is in process.
There is also a current industry validation on the retort process, and on lacquer performance, with final results expected end 2017, he said.
Dr Alex Kruglov, vice president of global packaging technology at Sherwin-Williams, said the company’s non-BPA epoxy, V70, sets the new standard of transparency with stakeholders and consumer advocates to protect the value of the can during the transition to new coating technologies.
Kruglov said that extensive reviews and testing by independent laboratories and scientists show that V70 is non-endocrine active and does not migrate. “We are establishing evidence of absence of any endocrine activity with this technology.”
* The Canmaker Summit 2018 will take place on 10-11 October in Venice, Italy.